How To Turn Your Students Into Authors by S.Z. Berg
There’s something about the idea of writing a book and becoming an author that intrigues people of all ages. When I wrote my first book (now out of print), I interviewed scores of people, many of whom told me they had an idea for a book. A couple of them went on to become published authors. That was a decade ago. These days, anyone can become a published author, including kids.
My child became enthusiastic about the idea of becoming an author after watching me publish my first novel, MIND GAMES. One afternoon, we decided it would be a lot of fun to write a book together. That book turned out to be William Edwards and the Wizardly Glasses, which became the first book in the William Edwards Book Series. Then we published a prequel, Winkleberry: Waiting for William Edwards. We’re currently getting ready to publish William Edwards and the Secret Mission and William Edwards and the Tower of Tazidan and plan to write seven more. As you can see, there’s no shortage of enthusiasm!
Further, there’s so much that kids and adults can learn by writing and publishing a book, from researching their subject matter to learning how to become an entrepreneur. It’s also a wonderful way to hone writing skills.
Here’s how to get your young authors started:
Start with character development. We gave our main character food allergies, because there’s hardly a classroom around where students have not been affected by the surge in the numbers of children with food allergies. We later added in celiac, because there are more and more kids with this disease, too, and it can also affect classroom activities. Giving the main character these characteristics allowed us to build a story around them. It also lent itself to widening the storyline to include bullying, which also is something students encounter (and fear). We thought that these topics would make for good discussion on empathy and being good citizens. We also developed a cast of colorful characters, some based purely on my child’s imagination and others based on our nation’s current economic situation, focusing on the banking industry. (William Edwards’ fake parents are evil bankers that take away people’s homes using underhanded methods. This opened up discussions on our nation’s current events and on understanding how loans work and to always read the fine print.) Then we added things that my child had learned, and we researched other topics on history, science, and the economy and incorporated them into the story.
Create the overarching storyline. Here’s where a child’s wonderful imagination kicks in. This can be an amazing amount of fun. Remember to teach them how to write a story in three acts and to choose a genre. Ours is a humorous fantasy.
Take your students through the editing process. This is a good opportunity to learn about sentence structure and variation, voice, and quotations.
Design a cover. This is a wonderful way to learn various graphic arts programs.
Get reviews. We sent our book out to bloggers and magazines. Students can ask their classmates for reviews.
Write the dust jacket. This is a good opportunity to teach your students how to write a summary. Don’t forget to add in the reviews from classmates, along with credits (Tommy Walker, author of the “The Flying Machine”) to their back covers or front matter!
Publish the book. Your students can publish their books as e-books, or put them into print! Both Barnes & Noble and Amazon offer free publishing. You can publish them as individual books, or make a compilation of short stories and use the book as a fundraiser. You can also raise money for a good cause by selling ads in the book.
Create a website. We created www.williamedwards.us, where we not only provide summaries of the books but where we bring the characters to life in an ongoing behind-the-scenes roundtable marketing saga, along with the authors and our “agent” (a frog!), and on Booknook, our version of Facebook, where the characters talk to each other. We also ask kids to send emails to the characters, who will write back to them! You can create a website for your class or use your school’s website to make other students aware of the books!
Please let us know if you have any questions. We’d love to hear from you!
S.Z. Berg is an award-winning journalist and Huffington Post blogger. Her articles have appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, Consumer Reports, Consumers Digest, The Scientist, Marie Claire, and others and on TheStreet.com and Yahoo! Finance. She is the author of MIND GAMES and coauthor of William Edwards and the Wizardly Glasses and its prequel, Winkleberry: Waiting for William Edwards and the forthcoming books in the series, William Edwards and the Secret Mission and William Edwards and the Tower of Tazidan.